A Tale of Two Socks

Can you tell what the difference is between the 2 pairs of socks above? Hint. It’s not the fact that one pair is handspun and the other is commercial sock yarn. The difference is 4 YEARS vs. 4 DAYS. Yes. The pair on the right took me over 4 years to finish. The one of the left was started on Friday night and was finished last night.

Let’s back up. The pair on the right is knit from Trekking XXL. I love this yarn. This is the 3rd pair or so I’ve knitted with Trekking. But this pair was always in my travel kit, along with 20-thousand other projects. And based on the picture in this post, it would appear that I’ve frogged it at least once, since they are anklets no more. I don’t know why or when I made this change, but it no longer looks like it used to.

But it’s more than just the fact that it was in my travel kit that it languished. I lost interest in it. The yarn looks like handspun. The yarn is 4 ply with each of the plies slowly changing in color at different cycles, hence a handspun from handpaint look. But the similarities end there. Whereas my handspun sock yarns are super squishy, bouncy and soft, this yarn feels like steel wool in comparison.

I used to love Trekking, but now I’m spoiled by my own handspun sock yarn. Like the one on the left. These were knit from some handpainted merino top I purchased from Bee Mice Elf (colorway Veranda). It was a leftover from Deb Menzworkshop. For some reason, I really really wanted some sock yarn with pure colors, so I chain plied these. The yarn is super bouncy and a joy to knit with.

I also have to admit that I was a captive audience to this pair of socks, since I was in a shuttle bus for most of the weekend. (Wine tasting weekend with my SCUBA diving group.) After finishing this pair, I pulled out the Trekking socks and finished that last couple of inches this afternoon.

Trekking Socks (right)

  • 2.0 mm needles
  • 72 sts around
  • 2×2 rib top and cuff
  • Elapsed time to completion – 4 years

Veranda Socks (left)

  • 2.25 mm needles
  • 56 sts around
  • 2×2 rib cuff
  • Elapsed time to completion – 4 days

I still have enough yardage in the handspun to make a pair of anklets *. Let’s hope that it won’t take 4 years to finish the anklets.

* One of the joys of having small feet…I can squeeze 1 pair of socks + 1 pair of anklets out of 3.6 oz of fiber.


Two pairs of anklets. The yarn is 3-ply handspun.  Both are spun from Crown Mountain Farm’s Superwash Merino Handpaint and knit on 2.5 mm needles.

The green should be familiar.  It was first used here as a 2 ply; and 3 ply sock yarn here, and again here.  As you can see, 8 oz go a long way on my small feet. 1 full pair of socks and 2+ anklets. (And yes, all the yarn, except for 2-3 yards, has been used up. Whew!)

After the current set of footlets, I still had about 25 g of yarn left, so I dug out the second color way, “The Beat Goes On”, spun 2 years ago, and patched together another pair of anklets.

They are siblings, but wow, can I tell the difference between the 2 yarns!  The WPI on both yarns is similar — about 14-16 WPI.  But the grist is a completely different story.  The green is lofty and a joy to knit with, but the multicolor one was super dense and the resulting fabric is stiff as a board. (The difference in weight between the 2 pairs is just under 5 grams.)

Unfortunately, they were both spun 2 years ago and I don’t remember the details.  But I think the difference might have been the way I spun the yarn. I may have spun with my variation of long draw for the green and inch wormed the multi. I have to say I really like the green much better. And the loftier yarn doesn’t seem to have made much difference in the wear since it’s close on to 2 years since that first pair of socks were knitted, they still look like new.

I may have to find a different project for remainder of “The Beat Goes On” 3-ply, since knitting on itty bitty needles with it was definitely not a pleasant experience.

Knitting Specs:

  • Yarn: 3-ply handspun from Crown Mountain Farms Superwash Wool
  • Needles: Knitpicks 2.5 mm needles (2 circs)
  • Cast on 12, using Turkish Cast-On
  • Increased to 56 sts
  • Short row heel (I experimented with 3 different short row techniques over the 2 pairs)
  • Cast off using Jeny’s surprisingly stretchy bind off method.  I came across this recently and am absolutely enamoured with this method.  I can finally forego the darn needle and the sewn bind off!

I wonder if I have anymore superwash wool roving left in the house. I feel the urge to try spinning some more and see if I can perfect that 3-ply sock yarn.  Of course, now I also want to try a cabled yarn for socks.

Socks Update

I’ve tried wearing the same socks “inside out” — the stockinette surface against the skin. And you know what? It works! The abrasive qualities are gone.

Wears Like Iron

I signed up to walk a half marathon in June. By announcing it here means that I can’t back out, right? And in preparation of that, I will also be doing a 5K walk on New Year’s Day.

Yesterday, I went to the Y and hopped on the treadmill to get a baseline. I wanted to find out where I am before I start training. I don’t do treadmills in general. If I want to walk, I have plenty of built-in loops around my neighborhood in 1, 2, and 3 mile segments. But I wanted to get a baseline that didn’t include stopping at intersections and waiting for traffic (or waiting for Waldo to sniff and water each blade of grass as we walked by).

What did I find? I finished a 5K in 54 minutes. That included a few slow downs to set my iPod into the treadmill, re-plug my headphone cord into the treadmill after my wild arm swings pulled it out of the socket, and general playing around with the interface.  Not too bad, but could be better.  My goal is to finish the 5K in 45 minutes. I have 3 weeks to shave 9 minutes. I should be able to do it.

Back to the title of this post. I wore one of my handknit socks. Regia Jacquard, to be specific.  It was a plain vanilla sock, top down with a heel flap, knit in plain stockinette. These socks don’t look much different from when I first knit them. And according to my project notebook, that was in July 2001. 8 year old socks that still look new.

Yup. Wears like iron. Unfortunately, they also felt like sandpaper after mile 2 (3K mark). During that last mile, I could feel every purl bump. And my feet were sensitive for a couple of hours after.

I will go through my entire sock drawer and give each sock an audition. I’ve heard that wearing the socks stockinette side in may feel better than purl side in. I’ll try that. Handspun as well as commercial. Nylon enhanced or not. Superwash or untreated wool.

So, the quest is on for a pair of perfect handknit socks that can withstand a half marathon.  Comfort, wicking ability, cushion, and just as importantly, durability.  Ideally, it would be something like the Smartwool hiking socks. But that would entail creating little terry cloth like loops on the inside for cushioning. Not in this lifetime. Life is too short. If it comes down to that, I’ll buy the darn socks. It’ll be cheaper.

Stay tuned.

CCF Socks

Here is sock from the previous post. I’m almost at the heel (toe up).

I got lucky and made it on the Port Townsend ferry without a reservation. I made the decision to try for it, since I wasn’t thrilled about the idea of trying to get through Seattle during rush hour. Whew! Now to find some coffee.

Next stop, Portland and Sock Summit!